A Couple of Cowards

Here is the article that appears in the February BUZZ, about our next play:

Could the Provinces Room in the Rodd Charlottetown Hotel double as a private suite in a luxurious auberge in Switzerland?

With its old-world charm, its gilded high ceiling, dark wood, massive fireplace, and elegant furniture, I don’t see why not.  Even if there is no view of the Alps.

Imagining this, one can imagine more: that some wealthy, witty, and oh so worldly characters from a chic Noel Coward play have been living for some time in that very suite, dressing for dinner in black tie and evening gown, tossing verbal darts at their absent friends and each other, and flirting from time to time.

Or why not TWO Noel Coward plays, with different but thematically related characters and a handsome waiter who appears in both?  That’s what ACT (a community theatre) is presenting at the Rodd Charlottetown in early March.

The titles of the two short plays—“Come Into the Garden, Maud,” and the still well-known “A Song at Twilight”—are taken from songs of the British music-hall tradition, where Coward got his training.  The first play is a somewhat light-hearted fairy tale of temptation, while the second has more of the reflective and sombre tones of evening, fitting, perhaps, for what turned out to be the last of Coward’s many plays.  The two together are called “Noel Coward in Two Keys.”  They were first performed in 1966 with Coward himself in the leading male roles.

Each features a triangle: a man well past his youth (and feeling it), his wife, and an unconventional woman from outside their social circle, who upsets them both when she comes to visit.  But do not expect the predictable from Coward.

Known simply as ‘the Master’ among his stage associates, Noel Coward was the Da Vinci of British theatre for over half a century: playwright, composer, lyricist, story-writer, stage actor, movie actor, comedian, singer, director, producer, and man about town.  He knew everybody, from Joan Sutherland to the Queen Mother.  Some of his friends made appearances in his plays: for example, the main character in A Song at Twilight, Hugo Latymer, was modelled on the famous novelist Somerset Maugham.

“Noel Coward in Two Keys” is ACT’s second offering of this season, following “The School for Scandal” in November.  It is directed by Brenda Porter, and will include a rendition of both title songs, along with Coward ‘house music.’  Tickets are available from TicketWorks, Confederation Centre: 566-1267 or 1-800-565-0278.  Performances are Fridays and Saturdays, March 2, 3, 9, and 10 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee on Sunday, March 4 at 2:00 p.m.  Tickets are $12 and $10.

Watching these amusing characters, audiences will feel that they too are guests of the Rodd Charlottetown Swiss Hotel.  And to begin the evening, why not dinner or dessert and coffee in the excellent dining room?  Perhaps a fondue—but with evening dress optional.

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